How To Design Your Presentation For Victory

Victory Criteria title Presentation

How do you know you did a good job on your presentation? One could say, if a majority of the audience listened to the end of your presentation then you were a success. That would be great, but what if they forgot about the content 10 minutes after it was over? That would be bad.

Most people give speeches for a reason. Only a small number give speeches because they want people to listen. Most want people to do, think, or feel something based on what was said. But if that is unclear then it is hard to say if you did a good job or not.

So, how do you know you did a good job on your presentation? A good answer would be that you got the result from the audience that you wanted. People bought your product. Or they agreed with your idea and voted for you. Or even enjoyed the subject so much they went on their own to learn more. Whatever you were aiming for, you got it.

You might argue that would be a very subjective way to view the quality of a presentation. Because that presentation might not be a great example of oratorial beauty nor win the World Championship of Public Speaking. However, in the real world what matters is not oratorical beauty but if the presentation gets the job done.

Still, to know that you got the job done, you need to set some kind of expectations. If you don’t set any kind of standard for your presentation it is hard to determine what you did right and where you can improve.

Knowing you nailed it

small wins

That is why I started to think about “victory criteria” for presentations. Essentially victory criteria is the thing that needs to happen after the presentation so that you can say that your presentation is a success. It needs to be an objective standard. In other words, any third party could look at it say that you achieve your goal.

That objective standard could be something like getting a standing ovation at the TED conference or getting $3 million dollars in sales from a pitch. These two are easily verifiable. But you probably think that most presentations do no fall into those kinds of extremes. That would be true, but this can be done even for the most average of situations.

I am going to look at what would be good victory criteria for both informative and persuasive presentation cases.

What is victory for informative speeches?

Suppose you would be delivering a TED talk. What would count as victory for you? I think that a certain percentage would say just delivering the talk would be enough. I can understand that. Some people get very nervous about delivering a presentation in front of people. But let`s suppose that is not a problem.

Avoiding Anxiety When Presenting
Avoiding Anxiety When Presenting
If you are like most people, the thought of getting on the stage in front of a h.....

If your goal was simply to deliver your speech, then it would not matter how clear or understandable you were. You gave the speech, you filled the time, some people listened. That’s all. But would that result in a good speech? Probably not. But you could call it “victory.”

What NOT to do and what to do

If most people aimed for that then from the audience’s perspective most presentations would be very bad. But in many cases, the common wish is “I want to get my point across.” or “I want people to understand X.”

That is a rather vague and bad way to set your objective. Because there is no clear way for your to know that you actually accomplished victory. It might work if you are psychic and you can read people’s minds seeing that they got your point or not.

But you may say, but you can look at their faces and see if they are confused, bored, etc. Isn’t that enough? True. When you see those types of looks you can use them as clues to whether the audience is understanding what you are saying or not. But a smiling face could just as equally completely misunderstand what you are saying as a confused one.

Bad Example

Victory Criteria: “I want everyone is my audience to get my points.”

Question: How do you know?

Good Example

Victory Criteria: “I want 1% of the audience to tweet about if they agreed or disagreed about point X or point Y.

We need to define a way so that we know our informative presentations are effective.

The three types of victory categories

three bar title

However, what do I mean by “effective?” When I look at informative presentations I think that there are three basic goals.

Three goals of an information presentation:

  • Remember: People can remember & repeat in their own words what you said
  • Do: People can implement what you said
  • Share: People will tell others how to do what you said.

Repeat: Either to yourself or to others

The first one is being able to repeat some part of your speech. You can get carried away like so:

Bad Example

Victory criteria: “I want all members of the audience to perfectly remember all the major points of my talk”

Depending on how many points you have in your presentation that could a very difficult target to hit. I would revise it to something more like this:

Good Example

Victory criteria: ” I want more than 60% of my audience to remember the keystone concept that is point X.

How to verify: I will have my audience members write what important lessons they learned in the questionnaire.

Here you are not being too greedy. You are only aiming for 60% of the audience. Though in some cases that may be overly optimistic. The point here is that you have gone from all the major points to one key concept.

However, once you have set the numerical target of 60%, then you need to find out if you go that 60% or not. One way to do that is to have a questionnaire. There are of course issues with getting people to fill them out. But, let’s assume that you set up a good enough incentive and people filled them out. By looking at what people wrote you can tell if they got your presentation or not.

Keystone Concept

Zen Arch

In the previous example, I mentioned the idea of the keystone concept. A keystone concept is a concept that holds all other concepts together. In other words, it is the key thing that if you forget it the rest of the points do not matter much. Or to put it another way around, it is the concept that if and only if you remember that concept, you will have probably won 80% of the battle.

For example, below is a slide contains the 5 steps for presentation creation. Which one of those do you think is the keystone concept?

Steps for Presenatation Creation

It would be #1, right? If you are not sure about what should happen after you completed your presentation, then almost anything goes. On the other hand, if you are clear on what should happen at the end of your presentation, then you can easily consider what topics would be good, who in your audience you should target, how you should organize your presentation, etc.

Once you know your keystone concept then, you would put more focus on that than the rest of your points. You should also repeat the key phrase for that keystone more often than your other major points. This is so you can ensure that your audience remembers that point.

Do: Get them to move

In many business presentation books (at least Japanese ones) there is a major focus on getting people to take some sort of action. This can also be a goal in your informative speech.

Many of us are not just speaking about a topic just for the sake of speaking about it. We care about it and we want others to care about it too. If you are sharing some info to help someone out then you hope that they take the information and use it.

Getting them to actually use the 5 step process

For example, suppose that I talked about the presentation creation process. I do not want people to go “Oh, that great. Thanks for sharing!” I want people in the audience to actually use the thing.

If that is the case, just telling them about the 5 steps clearly and concisely is probably not going to get them to try the 5 steps out. I need to do more than that.

At the very least, I need to at the end of my speech tell my audience to go out and try those 5 steps. In addition to that, I need to give various examples so they can have an idea of how it is used. Of course, at the beginning I would need to give them a reason as to why the 5 steps are important in the first place.

Now you might think while the goal is worthy, at the end of the day how are you going to know if anybody actually used your system? The only way you know is to ask them to share their work with you. Tell them if they have questions to contact you. If they completed the presentation please share the work in a email or on SNS with the hashtag #5steps.

You are probably not going to get a huge response, but it will be good feedback. At the very least you know if a percentage got it or not. If they are having trouble with your system, then that will be good feedback to improve your explanations or the system itself.

Bad Example

Victory criteria: “The entire audience should be able to do all the different forms with complete success.”

Note: Don’t expect everyone to remember everything. It is better if they have a small success and refer the material later.

Good Example

Victory criteria: “At least 80% of the audience will be able to create a simple victory criteria for their next presentation”

How to verify: If you are running a workshop you can just make this an activity and also homework.

Share: Getting them to spread the word

Probably the toughest goal of any informative presentation. Is to get the audience so enthusiastic about what you say that they will share it with someone else. The way I look at it, there can be about three different examples of this:

The three different ways of sharing

  • Simply share the info with someone
  • Use the info to give advice
  • Teach the material so the other person can use it

Sharing the info

If your material is good, some members of the audience will naturally share what they learned with someone else. If you want to make it your goal that they share the information with other people, then make your information as sharable as possible. This will include putting the main points in a simple handout, allowing people to take picture of your slides, and painting a picture of a situation of them sharing a point with another person.

Using the info to give advice

In some cases, the information that you provide could be used for advice. It could even be material found here. For example, someone is having a hard time with the design or their slides. In that case, you remind them that a basic slide design rule is one point, one slide. You look at your friend’s slides and you just say that your read, saw, etc. that rule, and your friend should ….

That would be the basic scenario. If you want that to actually happen, you need to showcase examples of where you give advice based on your concepts to help people with various problems. Not only does that give people a better idea of how the material would solve their problems, but for the more advanced listeners, they can see how they could give advice.

Get them to teach it

Finally, the last one is that the listener teaches the material to another person. This one is rare, but if you want the listener to really remember the material I would mention this. You can mention the statistic that 90% of the material is remembered if you tell it to someone else. Compare that to just 20% if you just see and hear it. You directly encourage them to teach it to others, and also show how with examples.

*Please note that the 90% state varies based on what is being taught. Different content will have different rates. This more a rule of thumb than a hard fact.

Bad Example

Victory criteria: “The entire audience will be able to share 90% of the material with their spouse after this seminar is over.”

Note: While teaching may increase the ability to remember the material, I would not expect them to immediately be able to. It takes time and reflection

Good Example

Victory criteria: “When the seminar is over, at least 70% of the audience will want to share points A, B, and C to one of their friends.”

Any informative speech has three basic objectives: remember it, do it, and teach it. Just decided which one you are aiming for and make sure you can get some sort of feedback that it actually happened.

What is victory for persuasive speeches

The victory criteria for persuasive speeches tend to be much more clear cut and easier to measure. Either you persuaded the audience or you didn’t. But there is a question of how far you might want to go.

The three basic path for a persuasive presentation

  • Uninterested to Interested
  • Against to at least will not oppose
  • Interested to takes action

As you can see in the box above there are three large paths. If you are in sales you often want the person to take action. But when you are with a large group of people you need to figure out what kinds of people are there and how far you can go.

Typically, I would set a numerical target. The reason is that is the easiest to measure. Typically you will know if you met the target or not. Especially if you are focusing on the third option. You could say that your goal is 10% of the listeners will buy your product. If you didn’t reach that target then you were not victorious. You need to change the presentation.

If your presentation is not a sales presentation, but you are working on getting a proposal approved, the result is approval or not. You may need to sway some senior executives to either your side or at least not oppose you. There can a lot of strategy involved in this. But let`s look at the three types.

Uninterested to interested

One of the hardest groups to deal with is those who are not interested in the presentation first place. These people are, use a classic marketing phrase, problem unaware. You need to convince these people that not only is there a problem but is one that needs serious consideration. These kinds of people tend to have little or no awareness of the issue so you have to spend a good deal of time educating them about it.

For example, imagine the time before orange juice (sometime before 1949). How would you get people interested in it? You would have to map it to some problem that people know about. Or you would have to make a good case that it deals with a problem that many people should be concerned about.

You need to talk a good deal about the problem because people will not care about the solution if they think the problem is not a big deal. So, sufficiently highlighting the problem is key to getting people interested.

Getting people interested in the topic can take a good deal of time and education. Therefore, it is generally better to just make it your goal to generate interest if you are dealing with people who are mostly uninterested.

If you are marketing online you have plenty of time to make the sales later. Too many sales presentation failures are just trying to do too much to fast. Things take time.

Against to at least unopposed

In more partisan environments getting people from the opposing camp to at least give the other option the benefit of a doubt can also be a difficult task. However, in this case, the person is interested in the problem. That person may even deeply care about the problem, but just has a different idea about the solution. How do you deal with that case?

As you may be aware of just directly saying that your right and the other side is wrong is not going to work. Even if you have a solid airtight case that you are right, depending on how you handle it, your persuasion could backfire on you.

Backfire Effect: Why Good Evidence And Sound Logic Doesn`t Matter
Backfire Effect: Why Good Evidence And Sound Logic Doesn`t Matter
John worked so hard to convince that “crazy” uncle of his that he is.....

Since people are emotional animals as well as rational ones, we need to take both into account. Instead of direct attacking the other side opinion. Agreeing with part or the whole at the beginning can be very useful.

Reducing an argument to absurdity

Let`s consider the case where one side says, “Because X is an old system, we should not use it anymore.” That would sound reasonable. After all many people want to use the latest and the greatest. But, you could go on and say. “You’re right. So, I guess we will need to start replacing the refrigerator. It’s 10 years old. The oven is as old as the house, not to mention the dishwasher, the car, etc. ”

This is a simple trick of reducing the person`s argument to its absurd conclusions. It is important that you do not sound insincere, sarcastic or joking. If you sound off coming like that it will simply backfire on you.

Rethinking the subject through questions

Another way is simply to ask questions to chip at the foundation of the person’s argument. You want them to rethink their position. So, if the person said, “Because X is an old system, we should not use it anymore.” You could say, OK. “What do you say about replacing our 10-year-old refrigerator? Do you want one with an Internet connection?” The other person may say that is different. Then, you just ask how?

Interested to action

There are going to be a group of people who are interested in the topic, but they may not be sure that you solution is the best one. Or they may think the timing is not right. Or there could be a other kind of objections. The victory criteria in this case is simply to overcome the objections and get the sale.

When I mean sale I do not necessarily mean that money has to exchange hands. You could just want someone to agree with your idea or proposal. While setting the victory criteria in these cases is easy enough to say, actually doing it is much harder. That is why I am going to cover a few cases. I will go into more detail elsewhere.

Typical cases:

  • The timing is not right
  • The solution may not work for me
  • I`m not sure how I get my boss to sign on to this

In these cases, I`m going to assume that they are legitimate objections. There are cases where people use these words as a polite way to say no. You do need to be careful about that.

Common objection 1: The timing in not right

It is not uncommon for someone to voice this kind of objection if they do not feel that the problem is serious enough to be addressed. You are then going to need to review the problem, the consequences of the problem, and how the listener’s situation will get worse if the problem lingers and festers.

One thing you may need to keep in mind is what the listener really cares about. It may not be the same thing that you think is important. Remember it is not what you think is important that matters, it is what the audience thinks is important that matters.

Common objection 2: The solution may not work for me

Here you probably did not show any examples similar to the person saying this. There is a common attitude that “our company is different” or “our industry is different” that may be true, but in may cases it isn’t really. Pointing that out is not going to win you points, however.

Another possibility is that the person may feel burned from a buying experience in the past. You may need to dig deeper to find out what that was and how your solution is going to be different from that one.

Common objection 3: I’m not sure how I can get my boss to sign on this

Basically, the person is not convinced that your proposal is a good one. Most employees know their bosses very well. They also know what their bosses need to know to say ‘yes.’ If they were convinced that your solution was a good one, they would ask the right questions to get the information they need to convince their boss.

What you will need to do is to find out what that person needs “to his/her boss to sign on this.” Once you know that you can provide the right information and move forward.

In the case of persuasion presentations, victory criteria is often clear. You either persuade a certain percentage of people or you don’t. You make the sale or you don’t. There will be cases where you need to consider that in any audience there are going to be a mix of uninterested, interested, and opposing opinions. You will need to figure how you will focus on change that.


In the creation of any presentation, the most important thing you can do is determine what you want to happen after it is over. This will become your victory criteria. If you meet your objectives you did a good speech. If you did not then you need to find where you went wrong and improve it.

The victory criteria needs to be an simple objective statement that anyone can understand. The statement will change depending on the type of presentation that you are doing. If you are doing informative presentations, you maybe satisfied with people just remembering a part of your presentation, or you may prefer them to use what you taught them. Just based on that will greatly change the structure of your presentation.

In the case of persuasion speech victory criteria is clear cut. People are persuaded or they are not. If money is involved it is very easy to measure the results. Still, not everyone has the objective of selling a product or service. Sometime it is just getting approval for an idea.

I hope that you try to use what is in this blog to consider how to craft your victory criteria. If you have any questions or comments please leave a note here. I would be glad to help.

Matthew Ownby

Previously worked at NASA, Cisco Japan, and other large IT Corporation. Spent more than 15 years training businessmen and women to be better presenters. Good enough at Japanese help native Japanese speakers win speaking contests. Was fortunate enough to give a TEDx Talk in Kyoto also in Japanese ;). Also aims to build the toughest communication contest ever. That will not only include being good at business presentation skills, but debate, meeting facilitation, negotiation, coaching, and more. Also runs an online communication dojo where the focus is on practical skill application not listening to a sage on a stage.

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